After carrying a trusty Black ‘n Red notebook for years (not quite hipster enough for a moleskin, you see…), I finally decided I should give complete digitisation a proper go. Trying various apps, I found some too complex, some too simple … and then one that felt just right.
Remember the Milk
Remember The Milk (RTM) began as a website-based service, but the companion iPhone app (and the newly released iPad app) takes it to the next level of usefulness. In order to trust anything as the “one and only” place to keep all of your tasks and reminders, you need to believe that you will always have it with you and that adding something will be quick and easy. RTM on iPhone fits the bill nicely.
Getting Set Up
Set up is simple & streamlined: download the free app from the App Store and then set up an account (or just log in if you already have one).
Helpfully they automatically add your first task for you, so you can tick something off and get that small jolt of satisfaction from completing a task almost immediately!
The interface is clean without being at all stark. You can choose from various views – the defaults are Today, Tomorrow and This Week but there are other options available under Lists. Personally I find Lists –> All Tasks the most useful, but that’s primarily because I don’t necessarily assign due dates to my tasks, since I’m a Getting Things Done enthusiast.
There are two ways to add tasks: a form screen and an in-line option. For the former, tap the + symbol in the bottom right corner then fill in the fields you want (Name, List, Priority, Due Date as standard, additional options under Add Field).
In my opinion though, the in-line task addition is much faster & so more convenient on the go: select the bar across the top and just start typing. You can either use the buttons or the defined characters to add Priority (!), Due (^), List/Tag (#), Location (@), Time (=), Repeat (*).
Defining Locations is a particularly nice feature. You can do this under More –> Locations, then search. It seems to be well-connected for street addresses.
Why do this? Because you can assign tasks to a location and the app reminds you of those tasks when you’re in the vicinity! Really useful for when you don’t want your to do list littered with tasks that are only relevant at the supermarket (“remember the milk”), the office (“hand in expenses”) or at home (“put out the bins”).
Lists let you categorise your tasks (defaults include Work, Study, Personal, Inbox), helpful if you divide your week in a similar way. Also useful as a tool to focus – perhaps on this particular Saturday you really want to focus on Writing, or Home Improvement or similar.
In addition to Lists there are Tags, in case you have another dimension. For GTD enthusiasts, this might be where to use action, maybe-someday, waiting-for, etc.
To Pay or Not To Pay?
The base free account and the free iPhone app are encouragingly fully featured, unlike many free versions which are seriously hamstrung and only a taster/preview for the paid app. Upgrading to a Pro account ($25 per year) primarily grants unlimited syncing (the free version limits to once every 24 hours) and push notifications.
The free app is certainly good enough to get you started, but if you find yourself depending fully on Remember the Milk, you may want to invest in a Pro account. This enables you have your iPhone, iPad or other device (there are also Blackberry & Android apps and Outlook integration available) along with the website in sync at all times. A couple of dollars a month doesn’t feel a high price for the increased productivity if you do work across multiple devices!
The Remember the Milk iPhone app is a nicely designed, intuitive companion to the already excellent online task management system. It is versatile and customisable, without being at all complex to set up. The free app is functional and fully featured, with the step up to a reasonably priced Pro account primarily givng you better syncing and notifications. Whether you’re already well-organised and wanting a great tool to have everything digitally, or your new year’s resolution is to have a proper to do list rather than the flurry of post it notes currently decorating your desk, Remember The Milk may well be the answer.
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